EXEC SUMMARY: Summing up day one of the televised impeachment hearings... assessing how the hearings are being spun... looking ahead to Thursday's big events... plus, reassurance that "truth still matters..."
On Fox, "today was a joke"
Oliver Darcy's observation: "Don't expect viewers, listeners, and readers of right-wing media to walk away from Wednesday's impeachment hearings with a different opinion of President Trump's behavior. In fact, it's possible they might be more convinced than ever that Trump did nothing wrong. Why? Because right-wing media has largely -- and unsurprisingly -- focused on the moments in the hearing favorable to its preferred narrative."
To follow up on Darcy's point, I decided to mute all my other TVs and just watch Fox News on Wednesday night. I heard Stephanie Grisham say that "today was a joke." I heard Donald Trump Jr. say "it's insanity." I heard Jeff Sessions ask, "Where's the beef?"
Here's what else I heard: Wednesday's hearing was a bust. It was all just hearsay. It was a "disaster" for the Democrats and a "great day" for the Republicans. Impeachment is "stupid." Impeachment is "fake." There's nothing impeachable here. There's no reason to hold hearings. This inquiry needs to stop right now.
The message was one-sided and overwhelming. Every host and practically every guest said the Republican tribe is winning and the Democrat tribe is losing. I'm sure the president loved watching every minute of it. That's one of the reasons why this right-wing rhetoric matters so much -- because it is reassuring and emboldening Trump. So let me take you through it hour by hour...
Tucker: "MEDIA MELTDOWN"
On the OTHER channels, Tucker Carlson said, "it was like Christmas and New Year's and the Super Bowl all put together." Carlson seemed reluctant to cover Wednesday's news, calling the hearings "stupid" and the importance of the impeachment inquiry "questionable." Grisham called it a "joke" while others made jokes -- Christian Whiton said witnesses Bill Taylor and George Kent "looked like people who sat by themselves at recess." The witnesses were insulted all evening long. Grisham said foreign service officials who are resisting Trump's policies should resign.
Later in the hour, Carlson mocked the news outlets that DO think this once-in-a-generation impeachment inquiry is important. "The media went completely bonkers today," he said, while the on-screen graphic alleged a "MEDIA MELTDOWN." He agreed with his guest Larry O'Connor, who said America doesn't have a free press because the press is made up of "political activists." Both speakers, by the way, are political activists, and the press IS free. A few minutes later, Trish Regan on the Fox Business Network ran a similar media-bashing segment. At one point her banner just said "RPT: LIBERAL MEDIA ANTI-TRUMP BIAS," which is just a string of triggering words selected to keep Regan's viewers angry and attentive.
But I digress. Back to Fox News! Carlson wrapped his hour by calling DC "a city in the grip of insanity." Then he handed off to Sean Hannity...
Hannity: Shut this down!
Hannity dubbed day one "THE WORST SHOW ON EARTH." He said the Democrats are "a national disgrace." They're guilty of "an abuse of their power." (That's a classic case of "I know you are but what am I," flipping the charge against Trump back on his accusers.) The Dems are "corrupt idiots" who look "dumb, bad, stupid, and shallow" after Wednesday's "sham hearing." Adam Schiff? A "congenital liar." Taylor and Kent? Just "self-important, uncompelling" bureaucrats. The hearing was SO bad, he said, that "I'm not so sure" that all the House Dems will vote for impeachment. "It was that bad a day for them."
But even though the day was "a disaster for Democrats," and "the Republicans had a great day all the way around," Hannity said "this circus, this sham, this charade" should be "shut down immediately" for "the sake of the country."
As for Hannity's guests, well, Mark Levin called Schiff "an incompetent left-wing boob" and likened the witnesses to "two homeless guys." Donald Trump Jr. said "everything was hearsay" from "career government bureaucrats." Steve Scalise said "a lot" of Democrats are worried about impeachment backfiring. Which brings me to the 10pm hour...
Ed Henry shares hearsay
Laura Ingraham welcomed Fox's chief national correspondent Ed Henry, who said he had been working the phones on Capitol Hill... Henry said he spoke to "three senior Republicans" who told him that THEY were talking to Democrats who were "absolutely deflated" by Wednesday's hearing.
So... in other words... hearsay?
Then, as if to back up the "deflated" claim, he quoted what a Dem aide told WaPo: "The onus is on us to wow some people this week." But that quote came out before Wednesday's hearing...
These banners sum up Fox's 10pm hour: "DEMOCRATS' STAR WITNESSES BURN OUT" and "DEMS' IMPEACHMENT COLLAPSE." Ingraham asserted that impeachment is a "cataclysmic mistake" for the other party -- after just one day of televised testimony. GOP Rep. Chris Stewart said "it was really just a huge dud" and "there just wasn't any surprises or any bombshells," even though there was, in fact, a big surprise: Taylor's disclosure about a July 26 phone call with Gordon Sondland. Later in the day, Trump claimed "I've never heard" of that call. Pretty soon we'll know whether or not that was a lie. But that new disclosure barely came up during Fox's prime time shows. Mark Meadows told Ingraham the day was "a swing and a miss for the Democrats." And he accused the witnesses of having a "Ukraine first," not "America first," sentiment.
At one point in the hour, when Fox's banner said the "IMPEACHMENT STUNT WILL HAUNT 2020 DEMS," I looked up at MSNBC and saw a banner that said "REPUBLICANS SCRAMBLE TO DEFEND TRUMP AS NEW EVIDENCE TIES TRUMP MORE DIRECTLY TO UKRAINE PUSH."
Maybe Republican lawmakers are "scrambling" to defend Trump, but right-wing TV and radio hosts aren't scrambling at all. They're sounding very confident. Now, maybe that's just part of the performance, part of the act -- But Fox's stars on Wednesday night were much more effective than some of the GOP questioners at the hearing. They're not talking about the evidence of extortion -- they're talking about bitter Dems and brave Republicans and ensuring the audience that the process will hurt the Dems in 2020...
FOR THE RECORD, PART ONE
-- Try to square Fox's prime time talking points with Chris Wallace's midday assessment: "I think that William Taylor was a very impressive witness and was very damaging to the president..." (The Hill)
-- This segment is sparking outrage: "The husband-and-wife Trump defense team of Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing appeared on Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight to push an outlandish conspiracy theory about Ukraine, baselessly alleging that left-wing billionaire George Soros 'controls a large part of the foreign service part of the State Department and the activities of FBI agents overseas...'" (Mediaite)
-- "The Republican playbook here is a time-honored one: delay, deny, obfuscate, and, if that fails, beg Americans to turn off the TV," Susan Glasser writes... (New Yorker)
-- CNN's Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto are anchoring special coverage from midnight til 2am ET... I'll be on around 12:45...
-- Also of note, CNN's sister channel HLN re-aired the impeachment hearings in full on Wednesday evening...
-- Via Frank Pallotta, here's how the late-night shows covered day one... Birthday boy Jimmy Kimmel said he "got exactly what I wanted this year" thanks to the hearings... (CNN)
Thursday's NYT front page
"ENVOYS REVEAL SCOPE OF TRUMP UKRAINE PUSH" is the six-column banner at the top of Thursday's NYT:
The NYT's lede by Nicholas Fandos and Michael D. Shear: "The House of Representatives opened historic impeachment hearings on Wednesday and took startling new testimony from a senior American diplomat that further implicated President Trump in a campaign to pressure Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr."
Bill Taylor was "forceful, detailed and unflappable in the face of Republican taunts." Taylor and George Kent told a tale of foreign policymaking "distorted by a president’s political vendettas with a small country facing Russian aggression caught in the middle."
CNN's Marshall Cohen, Kylie Atwood and Kevin Liptak wrote that the hearing "lived up to the hype, and the daylong affair gave both parties plenty to chew on as the inquiry moves forward."
And CNN's Stephen Collinson said the new disclosures "painted an incriminating picture of Donald Trump as a President instinctively willing to sacrifice America's interests for his own."
But on the pro-Trump web...
Oliver Darcy writes: All day long, pro-Trump websites hyped clips of GOP stars like Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes "eviscerating" or "destroying" their opponents. THOSE were the moments that generated focus -- not the instances when Taylor or Kent shed new light on the Ukraine scandal. And after the hearings wrapped, Trump's defenders in media dismissed the hearings as "boring" and a bust for the Democrats. If you were watching the hearing through the lens of the right-wing media, you probably didn't see a case against the president being built. You probably walked away thinking the Democrats' case collapsed...
"Dueling narratives," one much more factual than the other
Isaac Stanley-Becker's WaPo story about the "dueling narratives" says it well: "One story line rests on a whistleblower complaint — corroborated by a string of named diplomats as well as the White House’s own reconstructed transcript of a July phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart" while the other story line, the pro-Trump one, "relies largely on conspiracy theories and cover stories — some of which have taken root in the farthest reaches of the Internet before percolating up to the Oval Office."
Brian Lowry writes: Just on a perfunctory surface level, Taylor and Kent's testimony made "the Swamp" and "the Deep State" look pretty good -- authoritative, sober and patriotic.
Taylor's resonant voice -- which had people calling for him to narrate documentaries -- was a significant part of the hearing alone strictly from a style standpoint, which, alas, is among the aspects upon which pundits will inevitably fixate...
FOR THE RECORD, PART TWO
-- This comment from Dan Froomkin resonated with me while Kent and Taylor spoke. "The proper analogy for the hearings is not reality TV, it's a teach-in," Froomkin said... (Press Watch)
-- John Dean on "AC360:" "What struck me today in listening to these two witnesses is they already have more than they had against Richard Nixon to impeach him. Just on all accounts..." (Mediaite)
-- Norah O'Donnell on CBS: "This is only day one. We're still going to hear from at least nine other witnesses." Marie Yovanovitch will testify on Friday... (Twitter)
-- George Conway declined ALL TV interview requests for months and months -- but on Wednesday he joined Nicolle Wallace and Brian Williams at the desk... (MSNBC)
-- "Neither the MSNBC hosts nor his fellow panelists queried Mr. Conway about his relationship with Kellyanne Conway," Michael Grynbaum noted... (NYT)
-- One of the top attorneys from the Mueller probe, Andrew Weissman, made his debut as an NBC News legal analyst... (Examiner)
A reminder that the world is watching
Hadas Gold writes from London: Typically congressional hearings don’t get much attention outside of the United States. Not on Wednesday. As the impeachment hearings got underway, two of the major news channels here in the United Kingdom -- BBC News and Sky News -- took the hearings live. Both had on screen graphics explaining to viewers who was speaking or giving background on the hearings. Other mostly English speaking networks like Al Jazeera; France24; and Canadian, Norwegian, and Australian broadcasters also showed the hearings live. Of course vastly more networks (especially in other languages) aired clips later or covered the hearings in their news bulletin. "Hard to overstate how big a moment this is - irrespective of what unfolds,” BBC North America editor Jon Sopel tweeted.
>> Hadas adds: The hearings have major implications around the world, and not only because it might lead to Trump's removal. It's also an important example of the American democratic system at work. This process will take a long time. But I think the world will continue paying close attention...
"Bring. It. On."
Maer Roshan has impeccable timing... He came out with this new cover of Los Angeles mag on Wednesday... calling Adam Schiff, "the mild-mannered, Vegan congressman from Burbank," the GOP's "worst nightmare:"
"It's hard stay on top of the news as a monthly," Roshan told me, "so we pushed our deadlines to terrifying extremes and kept constantly updating the story. Adam Schiff may be a national figure now, but he's our local congressman, so we were determined to do this right."
Here's the cover story by Bryan Smith...
NYT "The Daily" team launches impeachment pod
Katie Pellico writes: The team behind the NYT's "The Daily" podcast is launching another daily listen, focused on the impeachment inquiry, called "The Latest."
THR's Natalie Jarvey had the scoop on Wednesday, explaining that the pod "will draw from the reporting coming out of the newspaper's Washington bureau." It will come out in the evenings.
"We're hoping that we'll be able to take one or two specific moments from the public hearings each day and go deep into those moments," "Daily" EP Theo Balcomb told Jarvey. Read on, or catch the inaugural episode here...
Trump says Jarrett and Levin have cleared him
At Wednesday's joint presser with the Turkish president, Trump called on reporters from OANN and Fox. Daniel Dale quipped: OANN is "the network that makes Fox look like Jacobin."
Trump also leaned on his Fox friends in one of his answers. He said the rough transcript of his infamous July 25 call "was analyzed by great lawyers. This was analyzed by Gregg Jarrett. It was analyzed by Mark Levin. It was analyzed by everybody." Trump said those Fox analysts and others deemed the call "perfect..."
A correction for Hannity
Just a quick note to Hannity, who was fixated on the fact that "therapy dogs" were visiting Capitol Hill on Wednesday. The hearing "was such a disaster, they actually brought in therapy dogs... presumably to help Democrats cope with their emotions," Hannity quipped.
For the record, this pro-pets event was scheduled "months in advance." It had nothing to do with the impeachment hearing. One of Hannity's producers should have told him that before airtime, before he made this mistake repeatedly. They could have asked Roll Call's Kathryn Lyons, who interviewed the dogs:
NOW, IN OTHER NEWS...
"Truth matters" at the Roger Stone trial...
Jury deliberations in the Roger Stone trial will begin on Thursday morning. Per CNN's team, "the final words from prosecutors to the jury on Wednesday about Stone landed heavily in the courtroom -- and could have been taken as commentary on Trump himself, Mueller's efforts and the current state of politics."
"Truth matters. Truth still matters, OK?" prosecutor Michael Marando argued to the jury, his voice wavering. "In our institutions of self-governance, committee hearings, courts of law ... truth still matters."
The Paley International Council Summit takes place in NYC...
TIME fetes its TIME 100 NEXT list...
Trump holds a prime time rally in Louisiana...
Deval Patrick on CBS
Deval Patrick is jumping into the Dem primary race on Thursday, according to numerous news reports on Wednesday that described his calls to allies.
Patrick recently became a CBS News contributor -- in September, to be exact. But now that's over. "Governor Patrick has been a political contributor to CBS News but in light of this decision, the network will be discontinuing that relationship," CBS said on Wednesday. But: He'll be on "CBS This Morning" on Thursday, as a guest, making some news...
"Triggered" is No. 1
"Triggered" by Donald Trump Jr. is debuting at No. 1 on this week's NYT bestseller list. Mitch Albom's "Finding China" is No. 2 on the nonfiction list, followed by Brian Kilmeade's "Sam Houston and the Alamo Avengers" and the new books by Flea and Elton John...
SCOTUS hears arguments in Byron Allen v. Comcast
Chauncey Alcorn reports for CNN Business: "Attorneys for Entertainment Studios co-founder and CEO Byron Allen and Comcast engaged in a contentious back and forth with US Supreme Court justices on Wednesday as the highest court in the land debated what to do with Allen's discrimination lawsuit against the nation's largest cable TV and internet service provider. Allen's allies, including US Senators Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, and the NAACP, say the case could set civil rights plaintiffs back decades if he loses. Comcast says a victory for Allen would unduly make companies vulnerable to a flood of discrimination lawsuits." Read the full report here...
Trouble ahead for McClatchy
"McClatchy Co., the third-largest newspaper publisher in the U.S. by circulation, said it has begun talks with its creditors and federal authorities about a possible government takeover of its pension fund as it tries to relieve considerable liquidity pressure due to its pension responsibilities and debt load," the WSJ's Lukas Alpert reports.
>> Kerry Flynn adds: The news came at the same time that McClatchy reported Q3 earnings -- and a net loss of $304.7 million. As the McClatchy-owned Sacramento Bee notes, audience revenue exceeded ad revenue for the first time in the company’s 162-year history. Audience revenue accounted for 46.8%, and digital ad revenue grew 13.4% from the year prior...
>> Execs also touted their new digital-only outlets, starting with Mahoning Matters in Ohio. These three new outlets are funded by Google News Initiative's Local Experiments Project...
Kerry Flynn emails: On Thursday Gannett shareholders will vote on whether to approve the merger of Gannett and GateHouse. The deal, announced in August, would create the largest US newspaper company, and it would mean big changes inside newsrooms. A NewsGuild report argued it would negatively affect journalism, by slashing wages and cutting staff. Ponyter's Rick Edmonds said he doesn't think investors will walk away from the deal. But as NiemanLab's Joshua Benton notes, the stock has dropped 38% from the day before the deal to today...
FOR THE RECORD, PART THREE
-- "It just keeps getting worse for cable and especially satellite providers. That much is clear after reviewing the traditional TV carnage from the third quarter," Sean Burch writes. "The largest cable and satellite providers — accounting for about 93% of the U.S. market — lost nearly 1.74 million net video subscribers during Q3..." (TheWrap)
Disney+ hits 10 million
Frank Pallotta emails: A day after its big launch, Disney announced that Disney+ has amassed 10 million subscribers. This # seems to back up the company's claim on Tuesday that the platform crashed due to "the consumer demand" that "exceeded our high expectations."
Disney did not offer any further context such as how many came from free Verizon deals or pre-orders. What remains to be determined is: How many of those 10 million accounts will end up paying for the service beyond its seven day free trial?
>> Disney's big subscriber news led to a GREAT day on Wall Street. Its stock ended up 7%, nearing a 52-week high...
Nick's newest Netflix deal
"Nickelodeon will make a 'SpongeBob SquarePants' spinoff for Netflix as part of a multiyear content-production deal that reflects the pressure on Netflix to fortify itself against new streaming competition, notably Disney Plus," the NYT's Brooks Barnes reports.
Through the deal, which is "worth more than $200 million to Nickelodeon," Nick will "create and produce original animated feature films and television series based on Nickelodeon’s library of characters," including a "music-based project centered on Squidward, the malcontent anthropomorphic octopus on 'SpongeBob SquarePants,' according to two people briefed on the matter..."
Warner Bros refreshes logo
"Over three years, Pentagram redesigned the studio’s iconic logo and identity," Fast Company's Lilly Smith reports. Here's a peek at the new look...
FOR THE RECORD, PART FOUR
By Lisa Respers France:
-- Chrissy Teigen was sooooo ready for your John Legend Sexiest Man Alive shade...
-- Taylor Swift's "Lover" remix is actually a duet with Shawn Mendes...
-- Demi Lovato and Austin Wilson are Instagram official, but who is he?
Two new Lowry reviews
Brian Lowry writes: Two tepid reactions to weekend movies: "Charlie's Angels," an unnecessary and disposable reboot of the 1970s TV series that's been revived several times before, this time with a female writer-director, Elizabeth Banks, at the helm; and "The Good Liar," a dream first-time movie pairing of two knighted stars, Helen Mirren and Ian McKellen, which isn't nearly as fun, twisty or Hitchcockian as it clearly wants to be...
Thanks for reading! Email me feedback anytime. Oliver will be here tomorrow...